Blizzard Loses First Sponsor Due To Stance On Hong Kong Speech

from the in-the-pocketbook dept

Just a quick update on Blizzard and the ongoing backlash against the company over its attempts to muzzle its eSports competitors from making “political” comments about “politics”, which mostly means not pissing off the laughably thin-skinned Chinese government over the fact that Hong Kong exists. It started when the company yoinked away prize money and issued a 1 year ban to a Hearthstone player, continued as it then issued more bans, then got weird when it decided to try to appease the backlashing public by halving that original ban, all of which led to basically everyone other than Beijing remarking on how totally shitty Blizzard is.

There has been a sense thus far that Blizzard believed it could lighten its punishments and run out the clock on the backlash, as the public moved on to whatever the next outrage would be. How is that going? Pretty fucking terribly, given that Blizzard just lost its first corporate sponsor due to its anti-speech actions.

When Blizzard decided to take action against a pro Hearthstone player for speaking out over the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, they ate a lot of shit from fans. They also, it turns out, lost a commercial sponsor in the form of Mitsubishi Motors.

The Taiwanese branch of the Japanese auto giant had been a sponsor of all of Blizzard’s esports events, but just two days after Blizzard’s decision to sanction Blitzchung for his actions, Mitsubishi Motors withdrew its support.

That this came from a Japanese company’s branch in Taiwan is probably not without significance. At the risk of sounding ignorant through over-simplification, the status of Taiwan and Hong Kong share similarities. Indeed, Taiwan’s President has spoken in solidarity with the protesters in Hong Kong.

More interesting is whether this is some kind of a one-off or a sign that the boycott floodgates are about to open. If this initial exodus of an advertiser triggers more advertisers to leave, suddenly the calculus for Blizzard on the cost and benefits of bowing to Chinese pressure may change. And change quickly. If that occurs, it will be fact that Blizzard will have painted itself into a corner. After all, it can’t suddenly now reverse course and encourage its competitors to speak openly and maintain credibility. It also won’t be able to dig its heels in further, or it risks losing even more advertising revenue.

I imagine there are several Blizzard executives shivering in their offices at the moment, all because they wouldn’t allow their company to back up competitors speaking their minds.

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Companies: blizzard, mitsubishi

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Comments on “Blizzard Loses First Sponsor Due To Stance On Hong Kong Speech”

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28 Comments
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Anonymous Coward says:

It’s strange that the news is only breaking now, when the sponsor loss happened two days after the incident in early October. Most companies seem to be staying out of the US-China war, though, leaving it up to governments to choose whether to dip their toe into the hot mess.

As for whether Blizzard executives are sweating… probably not. Activision’s management has been firing grunt workers with close to no notice despite declaring increasing profits. Odds are the higher-ups have their asses all nice and covered.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"It’s strange that the news is only breaking now"

Not really, it’s just the benefit or downside of a slower news cycle, depending on your point of view. By the look of things, Mitsubishi didn’t make an official announcement, they just silently removed their ads. The move was noticed by Redditors who view and play the games, some outlets picked up on the Reddit threads and asked both Mitsubishi and Blizzard to confirm. After they both refused to comment, the story was published, and then this site picked up on the story (breaking news is not so common here, they prefer to let the whole situation come clear of a little time before publishing).

So, not strange, it just means that some people prefer to do some traditional investigation or simply wait for facts to come in, rather than parroting the latest Reddit/Twitter/whatever theory as truth.

"Odds are the higher-ups have their asses all nice and covered."

I suppose it depends on what they do. They’re fine because they haven’t been publicly opposing these moves, but internally who knows?

Ammo says:

I think the more interesting part is that the Taiwanese office of Mitsubishi is taking a stand on this situation, but they are totally cool with Blizzard refusing to acknowledge Taiwan as such.
The Overwatch World Cup 2019 will take place during Blizzcon starting Thursday 10/31, and this is the jersey for Taiwan, which you can buy from the official OW store: https://www.intotheam.com/products/2019-overwatch-world-cup-jersey-chinese-taipei

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Anonymous Coward says:

Do like radio stations

They are not in a corner. All they need to do is have a blanket statement similar to what I hear on talk radio stations. Something to the effect of "Blizzard is not responsible for nor does it endorse the views and opinions of players, announcers, or any other party associated with its games.

There is always a weasel way out of said corner.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s not even "Back up" it could have been as simple of a message as "Blizzard maintains it’s position as a for profit company and makes all attempts to stay out of politics and stay in the business of making games that can be enjoyed by people of all walks of life." blah blah blah please leave us alone on the public stage blah blah blah.

Unless China has Blizzard by the balls their move makes no sense.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: misguided angst

Soooooo, you think that Americans should be more angry at greedy American companies than at the oppressive Chinese government?

You’re misguided. American companies are indeed greedy (as are companies from other countries), but they’re not locking people up for being Christian, gay, Muslim, etc. (yet) — as is the oppressive Chinese government.

Hopefully, all foreign companies that are doing business (getting cheap labor) in China will pressure the Chinese government to change its ways. Money talks

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nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: misguided angst

You’re right, but Blizzard is someone within reach. US residents generally don’t have any way to influence the government of China, even speaking out en masse. China just couldn’t care less. Blizzard, on the other hand, may be forced to care by its customers and advertisers.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: misguided angst

"Hopefully, all foreign companies that are doing business (getting cheap labor) in China will pressure the Chinese government to change its ways. Money talks"

Oh, money has talked, alright…the US and the west went so ballistic in outsourcing manufacturing to China today every US company falls over itself not to piss off China to the point where they wouldn’t be welcome bringing their business there anymore.

Tim Cook is on record saying that if he wanted to move the iPhone production from China to the US today every iPhone would end up costing 10k USD.

China holds all the cards here.

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